Why won’t the Romanian government let 15-year-old Stefan go to school?
Stefan Stoian is a 15-year-old boy and lives in Bucharest, Romania. Because of his physical and learning disabilities, access to education was never easy. In 2011 his impairments got worse but the school Stefan was going to refused to make any adjustments to accommodate his disabilities, resulting in him not being able to continue to attend the school. With the support of lawyers, he and his family appealed to Romanian courts but got nowhere, so in 2013 turned to the European Court of Human Rights where he is represented by lawyer Constantin Cojacariu. Validity (formerly MDAC) intervened in this case by advising the Strasbourg Court on how international law requires inclusive education for all children.
In September 2015 he was admitted, based on his academic results, to Mihai Eminescu High School in Bucharest. This school refused to make any adjustments and for some time Stefan could only get to the first floor if his mother carried him up the stairs. Classroom equipment was not adapted and the curriculum was not adjusted – two essential elements of inclusion. The school agreed to make physical modifications, and while waiting for these Stefan was home schooled. In February 2016 he went back and found that the school had broken its promise: it was still inaccessible and the teachers were unwilling to ensure his inclusion. The school also refused access to Stefan’s personal assistant, meaning Stefan was denied education.
The European Centre for the Rights of Children with Disabilities and Validity sent a joint letter to the Romanian Government calling on them to take action and ensure Stefan gets an inclusive education. The two NGOs organised a press conference this week in Bucharest. “I want to earn money on my own”, said Stefan at the press conference, “which would help me support the family I hope to have one day”. To “have a future”, Stefan said that is is “very important” that he attends school.
Stefan’s mother said:
“I want the authorities to create a plan for personalised services which should clearly state the minimum adjustments my child needs for the continuation not only of mandatory schooling, but also for him to pass his final high school exams and find a job.”
Oana Girlescu, previously a lawyer with MDAC said:
“There are some 70,000 children with disabilities in Romania, and almost 60,000 of them get no education or are put in segregated schools with worse outcomes. In 2010 Romania ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The government must roll out inclusive education for all children, including children with disabilities. MDAC calls on the Government to take legislative, policy and budgetary action to ensure that no child is left behind.”
Madalina Turza, President of the European Centre for the Rights of Children with Disabilities, said:
“Stefan’s case is outrageous, but it also reflects a nationwide Romanian reality. We encourage parents to take action to notify and to report abusive situations and discrimination against their children. Resignation can only bring an endless perpetuation of these problems, thus leading to the social death of generations of children with disabilities in Romania.”
Please write to Mr Adrian Curaj, Minister of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org encouraging him to make sure Stefan Stoian, and the 60,000 other children with disabilities in Romania get an inclusive education. Please copy email@example.com so we can follow up with responses.
This article was originally published here.